Poetry: Primatology of Longing by Jai Hamid Bashir

A poem that mingles the delight of budding desire against the backdrop of the natural world, “Primatology of Longing” moves readers from the snowy day of a first encounter to the soft non-verbal language of monkeys.


Primatology of Longing


The vertebrate loves order; it counts
us amongst it best. Nude, cold statues,
retrogrades of muscle stand upright

as we bounce on aching hips. On the way
back from our walk, you spoke of monkeys
you heard in South America. Femur-thick

and tibia-airy gliding through glass-
howls and green-furrowed canopies bent
into blackness. All memories arrive in

combs: caved and unqueened. Calmed by smoke
of private epiphanies: emotion, logic. Prehensile
tails traded for a larger frontal lobe. I’ve never seen

monkeys or apes in the wild; you have seen so many.

Our soft coats almost brushing, I confessed
how as a child I wanted to be a primatologist—
Jane and Diane and a gorilla named Koko.

How science says primate anatomy is capable
of speech, apes choose not to. Similar to us,
and how before this walk, I hid that I remembered you

from before. During a snowfall, in the corner
of a café I had been writing, wearing another coat,
while you leaned on the counter and orbited

around an espresso machine. I lingered that drink
to my lips. How you now assure being a poet
is a sort of primatology—

observations about the geometries of a hand
seeking to reach across a table, the faint canto

of sea-salt within an opposable thumb inside
a lover’s crooked, tender mouth. Prime, the highest

of animals, and -ology, the sux, a branch
of knowledge—a grasping upwards like Hanuman
seeking to eat a sun-skin. My primatology

now is about studying sapiens, what happens
to our minds and bodies. In our bipedal walks
onwards and further into the cloudiness

of a future —a tattoo blurred with time, blueness
in the night and in the rain, stopping again
to tie your shoelace, the graying-moontide

of your hair, how you smelled
of fresh coee and citrus under your nails.

This is all to say in my science
a poem is a contortion of the human
tongue, yes. I’ve been thinking

you should have kissed me.

Jai Hamid Bashir

Jai Hamid Bashir was born to Pakistani immigrant-artists. Her work has appeared in POETRY, The American Poetry Review, Guernica Magazine, Black Warrior Review, Asian American Writer’s Workshop, and others. A recent graduate of Columbia University, she lives in Salt Lake City. jaihamidbashir.com

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